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City Desk
30 June, 2006  
Smelly Sydney

Packer consigliere John Alexander orders TV news story attacking Kerry Stokes and then demands reinstatement of the journalist he favoured to produce the attack on the Channel Seven chairman


This morning (Friday, June 30) Justice Steven Rares in the Federal Court ruled that a statement of claim filed on June 23 by former Channel Nine news executive Mark Llewellyn would be available for inspection.

Nine capitulated last night (Thursday) when it became clear that it was unlikely that Rares would grant a suppression order.

The claim was for damages for breach of contract following Llewellyn’s demotion as the network’s head of news and current affairs to a lesser position, and a drop in salary from $750,000 to $400,000 a year.

Llewellyn has since been hired by Channel Seven. Nine Network moved over the weekend to settle the case largely to avoid Llewellyn’s embarrassing evidence getting into the public domain.

On Monday Justice Joe Campbell in the NSW Supreme Court granted Nine a temporary order suppressing publication of Llewellyn’s juicy affidavit, which alleged some dark deeds by Channel Nine and Publishing and Broadcasting executives.

The now “available” statement of claim is not nearly so colourful as the “suppressed” affidavit but does plead the following points in relation to the applicant’s employment:

“On or about 11 January 2006, the applicant was directed by an agent of the respondent (Nine Network Australia Ltd) imageto prepare a news story attacking Mr Kerry Stokes, of Channel Seven, in retaliation for a news story on Channel Seven attacking Mr James Packer. The applicant refused to follow this direction (‘Stokes incident’).

Particulars

Conversation between the applicant and Mr John Alexander, the chief executive officer and managing director of Publishing and Broadcasting Limited (PBL) at a meeting on or about 11 January, 2006.

“On or about 18 January 2006, the applicant was directed by Mr (Sam) Chisholm (then the CEO of Channel Nine) to terminate Mr John Lyons’ employment, due to poor performance. Mr Lyons was at that time employed in the position of executive producer of the Sunday program.

“Approximately one hour after the applicant carried out Mr Chisholm’s lawful direction to terminate Mr Lyons’ employment, Mr Alexander telephoned the applicant and made threats to the applicant.

Particulars

On or about 20 January, the respondent, or one of its agents, leaked a story to the press in which the applicant was publicly disparaged for following the lawful directions of Mr Chisholm,

Particulars

Story in The Australian newspaper headed ‘Packer reversed Sunday sacking’.

[snip]

“On or about 19 June 2006, the respondent took steps to interfere with the applicant’s ability to obtain alternative employment by making certain allegations about the applicant to Channel Seven (‘Channel Seven incident’).”

imageAs a consequence of the Stokes incident and the Lyons incident it was claimed that Nine Network breached an implied duty of good faith and an implied duty not to engage in conduct designed, or reasonably likely to seriously damage, or destroy the relationship of trust and confidence between the parties.

Under the claim for misleading and deceptive conduct Llewellyn sought to recover $11,250,000 for loss of salary up to his retirement (15 years).

For breach of the fixed term contract $1,055,563, for breaches of the implied duty of good faith, etc a further $100,000, for interfering in Llewellyn’s attempts to find alternative employment $629,793 and for damages for loss of opportunity $1.5 million.

There were other claims of $100,000 for loss of reputation and $100,000 for distress arising out of wrongful repudiation of his contract.

Spiteful vendettas, threats and favouritism – all part of life at the Packer feudal fiefdom. Are these people fit and proper types to have a commercial TV licence?

See full statement of claim

See Ackland column, Sydney Morning Herald

 
 

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